Wild maintain mastery of Oilers

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

EDMONTON -- It's strange how a team that just spent $196 million on improvements doesn't look any different to the Edmonton Oilers.
The new-look Minnesota Wild beat them just as the old-look Minnesota Wild always beat them.
Having won 10 of their last 12 games against Edmonton before adding coveted free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the Wild made it 11 of 13 Thursday with a 3-1 victory at Rexall Place.
"We know that there is still a lot of work to do, but we feel that our game is getting better and we're starting to get a lot of confidence," said Wild coach Mike Yeo, whose club slipped into a playoff spot for the first time this season. "We're trending upward. We're getting on the right track, we're starting to play with a little more consistency."
For all of their offseason moves, it's been a slow start for Minnesota, which is still below the teams it coaxed Parise and Suter from, the New Jersey Devils and Nashville Predators, respectively, and the Wild (8-6-2) remain the lowest-scoring team in the NHL. But the Wild have more than enough going for them to beat the Oilers, breaking open a 1-1 game with two goals in the third period.
"I don't think Ryan and I expected to come in and it would be like Chicago, win 16 in a row," Parise said, referring to the Blackhawks' hot start. "But we're starting to play the right way and play much better and find some consistency. It takes time. It's not an overnight thing. I know people think it will be once you sign (big free agent) players, you think this team is the favorite, but it takes time for everyone to work together the right way."
After second-period goals from Edmonton's Ryan Smyth and Minnesota's Matt Cullen made it 1-1, the Wild took over with two in the third -- Devin Setoguchi at 2:20 and Cullen with 13:59 remaining.
"We were playing the right way until the halfway point of the game, then they scored and everything changed," Edmonton's Sam Gagner said. "That can't be the case, we can't be that fragile."
The Oilers (6-7-3) are now 1-3 through four games of a five-game homestand that precedes a nine-game, 17-day road trip that will surely define their season. They were hoping to at least be in a playoff spot when they hit the road, but that's not going to happen.
Edmonton is tied for 13th place in the 15-team Western Conference, three points behind the Phoenix Coyotes and the Wild, who are tied for the seventh and eight spots.
"A division rival, at home, it's one we wanted to win," Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. "I thought we kind of sagged a little after they got their goal, and that's not like us, but we have to keep our heads up."
NOTES: Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck had to be helped off the ice after a low hit from Taylor Hall, who was ejected for kneeing. Clutterbuck has a bad charley horse. ... Thursday marked the first game between Edmonton and Minnesota since Oilers defenseman Nick Schultz and Wild defenseman Tom Gilbert were traded for each other last year. Thanks to a quirk in the schedule, and the lockout, it's been 420 days since the division rivals last played. ... Eighteen of Dany Heatley's 29 goals for Minnesota have been the Wild's first goal of the game. ... Edmonton left wing Ryan Jones is moving closer and closer to the lineup. Coach Ralph Krueger said the winger is "in the starting blocks." ... Edmonton forward Lennart Petrell, who's been out since being hit in the head with a puck during a pregame warm-up last week, is improving. He skated for the first time Thursday. ... Oilers defenseman Theo Peckham, back from his AHL conditioning stint after reporting to training camp badly out of shape, played his first game of the season, taking veteran Ryan Whitney's spot in the lineup. He finished minus-1.

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